Monday 10 April 2023

The EastEnders Cook Book and Wicksy's Cocktails

It's debatable if EastEnders, despite running for 38 years now, is still considered a hot property. Nonetheless, when it launched in 1985, it was accompanied by a huge buzz of excitement which lasted for many, many years. Not surprisingly, this popularity quickly led to a nice line in merchandise to generate further revenue for the BBC.

And, in 1986, the first EastEnders annual appeared. I looked at this annual in an issue of the now defunct Curious British Telly fanzine, but I thought it would be fun to bring two of its more curious sections to a wider audience: The EastEnders Cook Book and Wicksy's Cocktails.

Click the pictures for larger versions

While I'm no Jay Rayner, I still consider myself a gourmet. Only the other night, for example, I had sushi for dinner and, as I write, I'm in the process of digesting some wild garlic soda bread which I baked with my daughter. So, what would I make of the EastEnders gourmet offerings from those heady gustatory days of 1986? Hmmm, well, I'm not really sure where to start.

I tried jellied eels once, and that was more than enough, so I'm not entirely sure if I could ever get on board with Ethel's Eel Pie. Pastry, of course, is a fantastic packaging for any food, so I think I'd certainly consider putting a forkful in my mouth, but further progress would be minimal if at all. Now we move on to Ali's Turkish Coffee, and I can assure you that I would be more than happy to take this on. Turkish coffee is an intense, yet flavourful experience and it's been far too long since I've indulged in such delights.

Naima's Iced Tea Cocktail would also be much appreciated by my taste buds and I dare say it's an absolute winner on a summer's day. Preferably, it'd be served with a splash of vodka, but the EastEnders album was aimed at children, so non-alcoholic it is. Finally, we have Dr Legg's Gefilte Fish, and I'm genuinely not sure whether, unless I was at gunpoint, I would ever choose this or Ethel's eel pie. Naturally, I've never tried gefilte fish, so it could well be delicious but the recipe here sounds as plain as an 80's ready meal.

Wicksy's Cocktails, meanwhile, are what we now call mocktails due to the absence of alcohol. Most of the fun here comes from spotting the awful puns crowbarred into the cocktails' names - I mean, Contrary Mary and Lean Lofty for goodness sake - and eyeballing the ancient packaging for the drinks involved, just look at that Kia-Ora carton and can of Appletise (before it became Appletiser). If I had to go for one of these then, undoubtedly, it would be Pete's Fruity Fizz as it's probably the most mid-1980s thing on offer here.

TV-tie in annuals don't seem to be such a big thing anymore but, whilst this peek inside one hardly inspires confidence, they remain a fun piece of nostalgia. Yes, they were little more than a cash-in for the people producing them, but the excitement of unwrapping one on Christmas day rarely resulted in disappointment. And, all these decades on, they provide a fascinating snapshot of what British society was like in the past, even if it was painfully plain food and sugary drinks.

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